Kapadokya: The Most Wondrous Rocks You’ll Ever See
Now, jumping back to the end of November where I left off. One night during the week, a group of seven or so exchange students met at Agora (the biggest mall in town) and went to the movie theater to see the newest edition of the Twilight saga, Breaking Dawn: Part 1. Before I go any further, let me say that I did not see this movie because I am a diehard fan of the Twilight series. On the contrary, I find them to be obnoxious and poor quality on several levels. The only reason I bother following the movies is so I understand the jokes that are made about them and so I’m able to make them myself. So, basically, my friends and I walked into that theater prepared to laugh at the ridiculousness of the cinematography we were about to witness. It was, in short, as bad as I expected it to be, except for the fact that there was a small portion that took place in Brazil in Rio de Janeiro and there was a little Portuguese spoken in there... that’s it.
I packed for the trip to Kapadokya the next night, which was Wednesday the 23rd. Thursday morning, my host mom and I had thought out an entire system of how I would get my suitcase to Alsancak (downtown) in her car, get it from her after belly dancing lessons at night, then walk to meet the bus to leave at 11pm. Well turns out that Thursday was Teacher’s Day here, which they take very seriously. All the kids gave out small gifts and flowers to their teachers, and we got out of school a few hours early. I bet all you teachers (and students) reading this are thinking, “Why don’t we do that here!?” Well I don’t have an answer for you, but anyways, I ended up having more time than I thought to pack... had I not already sent my suitcase off with my host mom as part of our awesome master plan. I caught the bus downtown for belly dancing lessons with Hannah, where we learned a routine that was half belly dancing and half hip-hop, which was quite fun indeed. I got my suitcase from my host mom, ate dinner with Hannah, then walked to meet the bus. After the lengthly train ride to and from Ankara, which was a total of approximately 32 hours, we were all ECSTATIC to be taking a bus.
Before I start with the actual play-by-play of the trip, here’s a bit more about the place I went. Turkish people spell it “Kapadokya,” but in English, we would probably spell it “Cappadocia,” although they both sound the same. The city is located more or less right in the center of Turkey, both North-to-South and West-to-East. Its altitudes are higher than Western Turkey, which is probably the reason for the colder temperatures. Cappadocia’s height historically was around 330 BC, so most everything we saw there was from around that time period. If you want to learn more on the background of the city than what I include here, the Wikipedia page will give you a good place to start. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cappadocia
Now, with the Ankara trip, I recorded everything pretty in-depth in my journal, making the retelling of the story on my blog much easier. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with this trip. After I got home, either from exhaustion or over exposure to the cold, I got sick. Needless to say, I was too tired and feeling too yucky to write page after page of the adventures in Kapadokya, as amazing as they were. (Good thing I took a lot of pictures!) I’ll still relay what I wrote, but I’ll elaborate on the things I want to say more about, now that I don’t have a fever or sore throat.
~~ I sat next to Hannah on the bus the whole time pretty much. Our tour guide was very nice and had excellent English so we actually learned things about where we were. We actually encountered ice and snow (in small amounts) and the trip overall was a lot colder than Ankara, which sucked because we were outside much more and we weren’t prepared for that extreme of temperatures. ~~ The only time we found actual ice was either very late at night or very early in the morning before the sun came up and melted it. It was nothing like the icy roads in Wisconsin during winter, but it was a first-time thing for the Mexicans and Brazilians, who have never seen ice outside a cold drink or freezer. There were small patches of snow once in a while under trees and things, but nothing much. But again, it was a fascinating experience for the exchange students who have never experienced temperatures below 50 degrees. No one said anything about the temperatures in Kapadokya like they did with Ankara, so we all figured it wouldn’t be any worse than the temperatures in Izmir... we were wrong. So in most of the pictures you’ll see here, we’re all wrapped up and wearing as many layers as we could manage. ~~ I shared a room at the hotel with Hannah and Maggie, which was quite an amusing experience. The nice boulder quote from Shrek was used constantly for everything throughout the trip, especially by me, Morgan, and Annie. ~~ If you aren’t familiar with the quote, it’s a line Donkey says to Shrek when he first sees his “humble abode” in the swamp. After insulting the estate, he reconciles by pointing out a large rock and commenting, “I like that boulder.. that is a niiiiice boulder.” It was fitting for Kapadokya because most of what we saw that weekend... were rocks of one form or another. ~~ I bought a fair amount of gifts for people. The places we went were absolutely gorgeous beyond words. We saw giant volcanoes, went to Ihara and crawled (literally) through an underground city, visited tons of churches and houses and things, all carved into giant stone structures that had eroded away from rain, wind, volcanoes, and time. We went down into a giant crevice/valley with a freezing creek running through it, ducks, apple tea, and 391 uneven, exhausting steps back up to the top. We saw slews of “fairy chimneys”, or tall stone towers created, again, by erosion and wind. We went to a pottery shop that is famous for its 200 year legacy and met the paster potter (who resembled Einstein a far amount). The art in that place, the hand-painted vases and plates, are truly the most beautiful pieces of pottery I have ever seen with my own eyes. In the hotel the first night, we displayed countless gypsy pants people had purchased and swapped stories about our worst injuries and other strange conversations like that. The second night, we all talked business about traveling outside Turkey after New Years, and decided to do the research together after our next Turkish lesson. Oh, and apparently when I get back to Wisconsin, I need to send cheeseheads to the rest of the Americans... they all begged me for them! Really, the pictures will say more about this trip than I ever could with words. But the trip was a lot of fun. On the bus ride back, we jammed to music for a while before discussing Thanksgiving dinner the following Friday... SO excited! ~~
Before I get into the festivities of Thanksgiving in Turkey, here’s a few pictures from Kapadokya that will hopefully better explain what I saw and did better than I did with words:
^^^ this is the kitchen from the underground city. We went 4 stories underground total... NOT for people with claustrophobia.
^^^ original fresco paintings inside one of the many churches we saw there, carved into the huge rock formations
^^^ all of the small windows and doors you see behind me were carved by men tens of thousand of years ago, and there were still people living in some of these places into the 1950's.
^^^ examples of the handmade, hand painted pottery sold at the small shop we visited. Breathtaking.
Pretty cool, huh?? Alright, well moving on to Thanksgiving (and yes I know it’s late), I was in charge of bringing the stuffing. Can’t have a big holiday dinner without it! My host mom and I searched for a while to find all the ingredients I needed, which we did, but I’ve never seen chicken stock in a “just add water” form before. I did pretty well I think, for not being a very good cook. I listened to Christmas music part of the time, which really got me into the spirit. I made a bit of a mess and maybe didn’t do everything exactly like I was supposed to, but it turned out fine.
It took a long time to get to Annie’s house where the dinner was held. I took a taxi with Emily to the ferry station, then crossed the sea on the ferry with a few other students, then we got another taxi that took us just short of where we needed to go, so then we walked a bit to finish it off. But! We got there! We got to Annie’s and heated up or dishes, finished cooking the turkey, put the food on the table, and eventually everyone arrived and we started eating. There was SO much food! People liked the stuffing, but the sage was REALLY strong... The Mexicans and Brazilians were very amused and pleased with their first Thanksgiving experience. There was food from Mexico, US, Canada, and Brazil, and we all ate till we couldn’t eat another bite. My stomach was SO happy to have brazilian food inside it again!! We went around the table afterwards and everyone said what they were thankful for. I said I was thankful I made the decision to go on exchange again, because I met one of the greatest groups of people ever. There were tears, there were hugs, and although we said not to all say we were thankful for each other, everyone did. It was a good night.
Here's the food spread we had... post-meal .